By Comfort Mussa
Ever since the government of Cameroon banned the use of non biodegradable plastic bags, like other Cameroonians I grapple with the insufficiency and high cost of the alternatives. Shop owners often do not provide packaging for goods bought. Customers have to purchase biodegradable plastic bags at the shops or bring their plastic/paper bags from home. However, when I go to the shops to buy sanitary towels, without asking the shop owners will wrap it up carefully in a black plastic bag or news paper.
Some shop owners say, pads are too private to be exposed unlike other sanitary products like toothpaste or toilet tissue. There’s always packaging for pads and tampons, even if there isn’t for bread or cooking oil.
I appreciate the service. What I do not appreciate though is that in our society, the subject of menstruation is somehow shrouded in secrecy in similar ways as the shop owners will wrap up sanitary towels . For most people it is a taboo subject. In some communities women are considered unclean during their periods and excluded from certain socio cultural events. The lack of public services that cater to the hygiene needs of women and girls excludes them from some social and professional activities.
There have been efforts to break the silence and myths surrounding menstruation and on Comfort Zone today, I hope to break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and the role it plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.
Half the population of Cameroon menstruates and conversations on the subject is very important because;
- Each month there is a double burden for women in many Cameroonian cities plagued by water scarcity.
We have dwelt long on the subject of water scarcity in Cameroon at large. To cope with the water scarcity some women are adopting coping strategies like reducing the number of baths they take daily. Menstrual hygiene is impossible without clean, accessible water. As a Cameroonian woman affected by the water crisis I call on the government of Cameroon and water corporation to fix the water problem in our country. Do you see how nasty and smelly our town gets when the city council fails to collect garbage around the city on time? The human body also has the capacity to smell awful and look nasty without proper hygiene. Water is a fundamental human right! Women in Cameroon don’t have to go another day without the safety in knowing that water will flow when they open the taps especially during their periods.
It is high priority. Visit some of the inner-city as well as rural schools in Cameroon. Most of the schools have inadequate toilets for the ratio of students and often no running water in the toilets. Often times, the toilets are smelly, no toilet paper and worse case scenarios some of the doors cannot be locked.
Even public spaces like the Bamenda main market has only four toilets for the over 5000 traders and customers who visit the market daily. The grave lack of facilities and appropriate sanitary products can push menstruating girls out of school and working women away from work. Menstruating women and girls need access to clean water, clean and safe sanitary products, and to a clean and private space in which to change their menstrual pads.
In Cameroon street pidgin, when a guy is broke he says “I di see ma menses”. Guys equate being broke with menstruation. This speaks volumes of the situation women in Cameroon encounter and the inconveniences they are put through when basic hygiene products and facilities are not available.
It is challenging to talk about national emergence and sustainable development and women’s empowerment if day-to-day practical needs are ignored .Without access to toilets, sanitation facilities, menstrual pads and information, girls and women will be unable to thrive at school, work or play.
Can we talk?
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